In Brief

Health care worker sentenced for Medicare fraud, AG says

The office of Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto on Wednesday said health care worker Margaret Childs was sentenced for Medicaid fraud. 

In a statement, the office said Childs pleaded guilty to failure to maintain adequate records. District Court Judge Kenneth Cory sentenced Childs to 60 days in jail; suspension; 120 hours of community service; $15,300 in restitution, penalties and costs; and five years probation. 

The office said the attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit started investigating the case in 2008 after information was obtained that personal care aid services were not being provided to a Medicaid recipient. 

Aviation Department, utility finish moving wires, towers

The Clark County Department of Aviation and NV Energy on Wednesday said they finished removing nearly 2,900 linear feet of high-tension electrical wires and towers near the North Las Vegas Airport.

In a statement, the Aviation Department said the lines and towers, which stood 100 feet tall along the south side of Carey Avenue between Rancho Drive and Simmons Street, presented a hazard to small aircraft taking off and landing on two of the airport’s busiest runways.

The above-ground lines were recently de-energized in favor of new underground lines NV Energy installed in the area beginning in September .

The department said the $9 million project to take the above-ground lines and move them underground was largely financed through federal grants, including more than $6 million in Airport Improvement Program funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, and nearly $2.7 million in federal stimulus money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Department of Aviation contributed approximately $320,000.

DETROIT

Americans snap up new rides, boosting carmakers in May

Americans shrugged off fewer discounts and a scary stock market plunge last month, snapping up new automobiles and delivering another month of higher sales for carmakers.

May marked the seventh straight month of year-over-year sales increases for the auto industry.

Detroit’s automakers enjoyed brisk gains. Ford sales rose 22 percent, boosted by strong demand for the F-Series pickup and new Ford Mustang. GM sales rose 17 percent, led by a jump in sales of its four remaining brands — Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac — and big orders from fleet customers, such as rental car agencies.

Chrysler had the biggest boost of the three, with sales surging 33 percent. May was the first month in more than two years that Chrysler sold more than 100,000 vehicles, helped by strong sales of its Jeep Wrangler, pickup trucks and minivans.

Ford also solidified its position as the nation’s No. 2 automaker behind GM by trouncing Toyota in sales. The Dearborn, Mich., carmaker sold 196,671 vehicles, almost 34,000 more than Toyota, which had taken second place from Ford in March.

WASHINGTON

Credit-chasing homebuyers raise contract count in April

A rush of homebuyers aiming to meet a deadline to qualify for a federal tax credit pushed the number of signed sales contracts to the highest level since October.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday its seasonally adjusted index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes rose 6 percent in April from a month earlier to a reading of 110.9.

March’s reading was revised upward to 104.6.

The rise marked the third consecutive month of increases, all of them aided by federal tax credits of up to $8,000.

But the tax credits expired on April 30. Many analysts expect sales to drop in the coming months.

DEARBORN, Mich.

Ford Motor Co. to stop making Mercury-branded cars this year

Ford Motor Co. will cease production of its 72-year-old Mercury brand by the end of 2010 after years of declining sales.

Mercury’s death is the latest in a string of casualties as Detroit carmakers try to cut costs and invest more heavily in fewer offerings.

By shedding a midrange brand that was more and more irrelevant to buyers, the automaker can focus on accelerating sales of Ford and beefing up its luxury Lincoln brand.

Ford plans to expand its Lincoln lineup to make up for lost Mercury sales and support Lincoln-Mercury dealers who will suddenly be without a brand.

Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s product development chief, said Lincoln will have seven new or revamped vehicles in the next four years, including the brand’s first compact car.

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif.

IPad imagined before iPhone, Apple chief tells audience

Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs shared a secret with his audience at a technology conference Tuesday: The idea for the iPad came before the iPhone.

The idea to ditch the keyboard for what Jobs calls a multitouch display came about in the early 2000s, although the company was working on a telephone at the time, he said. That’s when a prototype was brought to him that used the device’s now-famous scrolling mechanism.

"I thought, ‘My God we can build a phone out of this,’" Jobs said at The Wall Street Journal’s "D: All Things Digital" conference in Rancho Palos Verdes.

But the tablet was put on the shelf. The iPhone went into development for several years before making its debut in 2007. The iPad went on sale in April.

Both products have taken on more of the personal computing tasks once handled by computers running Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system and other programs.

That has helped Apple surpass Microsoft, its longtime nemesis, as the largest technology company in the world by market capitalization — a milestone achieved last week.

BERLIN

Euro nudges up a little against the dollar in trading

The euro is a little higher against the dollar, trading close to the $1.23 mark.

The euro bought $1.2294 this morning European trading — up from $1.2238 in New York late Wednesday.

The 16-nation currency hit a four-year low earlier in the week as worries persist about the economic harm of the eurozone debt crisis.

Strong U.S. home sales data Wednesday might have helped increase the markets’ appetite for risk; the dollar is a traditional safe haven for investors.

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